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SPH511 Research Skills Guide: Evaluating websites

Evaluate information

Use the CRAP test to evaluate any resources you want to use in your assessments.

Criteria Ask Yourself Example
Currency
  • When was the information published?
  • Does currency matter for this topic?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?
  • When was the webpage last updated?

History of educational theories - older resources may be appropriate

vs

Social media in education -  older resources may not be appropriate

Reliability
  • Who published the information?
  • Is the source reputable? Is it peer reviewed?
  • Does the creator provide references and are those references credible?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

A satirical news website (e.g. Betoota Advocate)

vs

A not for profit media group sourcing content from academics and researchers (e.g. The Conversation)

Authority
  • Who is the creator or author? Sources without an author may be less credible
  • What are their qualifications, affiliations and experience?
  • Are they an expert in the field?

An article written by a self-appointed expert that appears on a blog

vs

A peer reviewed article written by a team of university academics

Purpose
  • Why was the information published and who is the intended audience?
  • Is the creator trying to sell, inform, entertain, persuade?
  • Is it fact or opinion?
  • Is it biased or balanced?

A webpage on diabetes from a pharmacy company that produces drugs to treat diabetes. They may have a vested interest.

vs

Diabetes information from a government website such as Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW). They have no vested interest.

Evaluating health information on websites

When evaluating health information from websites there are a few questions to consider:

  1. What sort of website is it?  The url can give clues. For example,  .gov.au is a government agency website, .org.au is an  organisation's website.
  2. How often is the site updated? Heath information needs to be updated regularly as new treatments or research comes to light.
  3. Does the site present facts and not opinion? It is important that the information presented is factual and not opinion.  Often .com or .com.au sites may be trying to sell treatments to people, especially if they are sponsored by a drug company.
  4. Who is the intended audience? If the website is provided by a peak body then the audience is most likely to be professionals in the field, but some websites can masquerade as professional when they are not. 

Tips for evaluation

  • Look for author or authors of documents on the site, including the institution for whom they work and contact details
  • Check for an "About us" or "Our Mission statement" or  similar
  • Check to see if the information presented has a date attached
  • Check to see if there are footnoted references to other papers and, if so, do any links to those papers work?

For more information on evaluating information on the internet, watch the video below:

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